Shut up and play your guitar - The multi-millionaire celebrity hypocrisy of idiotic rock stars

If a truly brilliant, privileged, charismatic, multi-talented, ideas-driven rock band can't get it right? Who can?

Roger Waters has caused controversy with his comments on the Falklands
Jonathan Bracey Gibbon
On 31 May 2012 09:29

Apart from the 'hilarity' of Saturday morning comedy on BBC R4, one of the few joys of the BBC these days is BBC4, and it excelled itself recently with a terrific documentary on the making of Pink Floyd's album, Wish You Were Here.

There's been a fair bit of Floyd archive-driven stuff recently, but despite that, this was truly revealing. But maybe in a way the BBC didn't intend.

I was alerted to its existence on a football forum thread which illustrated part of Floyd's enduring appeal, nay brilliance - the band's evident cross-class constituency, not to mention their appeal to women.

Barry White has little to fear from the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, but the Floyd remain the soundtrack for milf action across the land. Or so I'm told.

Aged 11, I was introduced to Dark Side of the Moon via 'Money'. The use of the word “bullshit” in the lyric - four years before punk - was shocking indeed, especially so if you lived in Surbiton. I subsequently bought what was my second album, after Bowie’s Hunky Dory, A Nice Pair.

This was a Pink Floyd double album comprising Piper at The Gates Of Dawn and Saucerful Of Secrets. Two prog albums marketed with a very punk epithet. The cover itself featured a pair of breasts, and a hand holding a pear with a cross through it.

Quite a concept. Not exactly Storm Thorgerson, but not a million miles from punk itself. Of course, the Punk Floyd did indeed appear in The Rutles some years later. Then they actually shared the same lunacy, only latter day punk rockers have grown up a bit while Roger and Dave still seek common cause with nutters the world over.

Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals were the Floyd's purple patch and while I concede Comfortably Numb, the nauseating ego of Roger Waters on The Wall renders that album unacceptable as a Pink Floyd record. For Waters is the worst of rock star millionaires.

I was in the audience at the preposterous Live8 poverty fest for their 20 minute swansong. That day, I'd blagged a backstage pass and experienced vomit-inducing, multi-millionaire celebrity hypocrisy first hand. I even took a leak next to Brad Pitt. No ladies and germs...IDNSHC.

But watching this BBC account of a band's creative agony, barely a month after Waters's craven endorsement of Argentina's claim on the Falklands while on tour in Argentina, that day came flooding back.

The idiotic impotence of rock stars, no matter how well-educated. And as Bob Geldof - the star of Roger Waters' risible film version of The Wall - and Bono suck up the 'good news' from Africa, oblivious to the delay in the process their collective egos cause and continue to do so, the folly of the rock star ego was, I suspect, unintentionally laid bare by this particular documentary.

If you are a Floyd fan, the poignancy of the piece relating to ex-band mate, Syd Barrett is ever-present. As is how this 'masterwork' was basically the moaning of millionaire hippies - still in their 20s - having had the very last ounce of their talent vindicated, and now required - no, contracted - to make a follow-up, but can only find inspiration in mammon. Bitterness in success.

Early on in the piece, David Gilmour reveals Roger Waters's feeling that Floyd should not have continued after the success of Dark Side, but they were too “scared of the life outside”. To their credit, a damning review by prominent critic, Nick Kent, is shown giving them pause for thought.

So, bereft of ideas, a song is written about the frazzled band-mate they left behind, Syd Barrett. The rest of WIsh You Were Here is basically moaning about the record company forcing them to make a great record that would go on to make them a fortune. Q.E.D. There's no concession that maybe, that very pressure led to that great record.

It's a horribly leftist construct, but nowhere is there a credit to EMI or their A&R who pissed them off so much, doing their jobs, that made that record what it became.

Set in the context of Waters's bizarre endorsement of Kirchner's disastrous regime, you wonder whether Syd Barrett was the only casualty of the Floyd's early days.

And then listening to the charmless Waters rogering the nobility of his father's passing into a justification for his band's clearly limited oeuvre pulled the wool from my eyes.

He was absolutely right.

Pink Floyd should have called it a day after Dark Side Of The Moon.

Whining about the corporate structure that made you rich as Croesus, while cozying up to dictatorships that cause the very poverty that you want to make history, is a quite nauseating pastime and yet Pink Floyd were the very worst at this.

Indeed, as bad as much of the truly terrible work produced after Animals is - and which BBC4 has the decency to document in A Pink Floyd Miscellany - Wish You Were Here reeks of self-indulgence in retrospect.

If there was ever proof that even the most brilliant of rock bands can never be Yoda - and Pink Floyd are only really eclipsed by the Beatles - then this wonderful documentary is it.

But if a truly brilliant, privileged, charismatic, multi-talented, ideas-driven rock band can't get it right? Who can?

As the only real genius in rock n roll history, once said - Shut Up and Play your Guitar.

Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon is a freelance journalist who over the past 15 years has written for The Times, the Financial Times, The Sunday Times and Sunday Express 

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